Volleyball and cross country teams across the Orange County School District are holding their first official practices this week, after an offseason that lasted almost an entire year.
Following months of uncertainty about whether there would be a season at all, the OCSD released a schedule and a series of guidelines that laid out when teams were allowed to play, and what safety precautions players and coaches would have to take in order to have in-person events. The first sports to return will be cross country and volleyball, both of which start practice this week.
Toward the end of October, athletes and coaches were allowed inside of their respective schools for the first time since March to have official preseason workouts. Even though players and coaches are back to doing what they love, Orange High School volleyball coach Kelly Young said it has been difficult to adjust to this “new normal."
For every workout, practice and game, Young has to work with the school’s athletic trainer to make sure they are following the national, state and district guidelines. These guidelines include making sure players bring their own water, come dressed ready to play, place their bags six feet apart, fill out a questionnaire and have a temperature check before entering the gym. Although there are many precautions to go through, the biggest challenge Young has seen her players deal with is having to wear a mask throughout the entirety of every practice.
“If they had their choice, they would choose not to wear them during play,” Young said.
Chloe Riley, a senior volleyball player at Orange High School, said wearing a mask is difficult when she is on the court.
“I do have asthma, so it is difficult to run in a mask,” Riley said.
Having to wear masks during practice has made teams take time out to address these difficulties. Riley said the team has to incorporate “mask breaks” into its practices, so her and other players with asthma and other conditions can catch their breath.
“During practice, some of the girls on the team who also have asthma go outside to take our masks off and take a break for a second," Riley said. "We have a designated spot in the gym for that, too.”